Underpinned by a longstanding tradition, the promotion of education and culture is a core element of our commitment to society. By making education and culture accessible, we nurture characteristics that are essential to us as a high-tech company, namely creativity, enthusiasm for new discoveries, curiosity, and the courage to transcend boundaries. To tap into these key drivers, we sponsor educational and cultural initiatives at many of our sites, grant scholarships and facilitate learning in specific subjects.
Our commitment: The principles of our community outreach
When it comes to supporting creativity and inspiration within our communities, we align our efforts with our Group Policy on Contributions to Society, which is detailed under Community involvement.
Promoting education worldwide
We are committed to igniting a passion for science, especially among young people, which is why we have been supporting initiatives such as the “Jugend forscht” competition for more than 35 years. In 2018, we hosted the nationals for the third time. Themed “Jump! #ThinkNew”, the contest attracted 182 young scientists from across Germany. We have also been organizing the state-level competition for the German Federal State of Hesse since 1996.
Junior Labs at the Technical University Darmstadt, Germany
We encourage young people to come to our Junior Labs and explore their scientific curiosity. Linking classroom lessons with trending topics and modern methods of research, the initiative encompasses different focus areas. For instance, we partner with the Technical University (TU) of Darmstadt to operate a junior laboratory for chemistry, with approximately 2,500 students conducting research over the course of 2018. We also run the “livfe BioLab”, where in 2018 more than 1,000 pupils performed biology experiments under professional guidance.
Continuing education for teachers and expanding school partnerships
As part of our school booster program in Darmstadt (Germany) and the surrounding area, we helped approximately 70 schools conduct experiment-based science projects in 2018. Additionally, around 1,500 students visited research labs and select manufacturing plants at our global headquarters.
Beyond promoting STEM education, in Darmstadt we also support teachers through continuing professional development that explores educational concepts and helps them evolve their teaching technique. In 2018, we once more hosted a science conference attended by more than 100 teachers from the region.
Over the years, we have gained a great deal of experience through longstanding school partnerships in the Darmstadt area. In an effort to leverage these lessons learned and apply them to other countries, we initiated a pilot project in India in 2017, with subsequent projects launched in Chile, Kenya and Tanzania in 2018. Building on the experience from the pilot, our endeavors here focus on providing teachers with the tools to design exciting lessons that will spark their students’ curiosity in science. To date, 100 people have taken advantage of this continuing education program. We are working closely with education experts to develop the lesson concepts. Thanks to their knowledge of the cultural landscapes in the respective countries, we can adapt experiments to local environments and introduce our technologies as well as those of our partners. The projects conducted in collaboration with the Kenya Chemical Society provide a good example of this approach. Utilizing a simple education concept for four- to six-year-olds (“Finding out with Fred”), these experiments require little preparation, combine imaginative stories with STEM education, and can be performed with inexpensive materials that are easily available locally.
SPARK: Igniting a passion for science in the next generation
As part of our global volunteer program SPARK, employees around the world from our Life Science business dedicate their time and expertise to engage school children in hands-on learning. The goal is to ignite a passion for science and inspire them to consider a STEM-related career. SPARK activities include our Curiosity LabsTM program, which educates students through exciting, hands-on science lessons. We also offer tours of our production sites, career panel events and more. In addition to providing materials for interactive lessons, we collaborate closely with education experts around the world to ensure that SPARK aligns with specific local requirements and complements existing curricula.
In 2018, as part of SPARK, our Life Science business ran its second year-long Curiosity CubeTM tour across North America. Consisting of a shipping container retrofitted into a mobile science lab, the Curiosity CubeTM provides a learning environment that immerses visitors of all ages in specific science topics through hands-on experiments and state-of-the-art technology. Supporting the daily work of teachers by offering tools and resources that most schools lack, the tour focused on schools with underprivileged students, which accounted for 94% of the facilities visited. In total, the Curiosity CubeTM traveled 30,000 kilometers across North America in 2018, and engaged students in 108 communities. Feedback showed that following the visit, 94% of students increased their understanding of life science terminology and 74% expressed interest in being a scientist.
Through the overall SPARK Global Volunteer Program, including the Curiosity CubeTM, more than 2,800 of our employees volunteered more than 19,000 hours of their time throughout 2018, engaging over 66,000 students worldwide in science.
Partnering with Seeding Labs
We support Seeding Labs, a non-governmental organization that provides scientists in developing countries with lab equipment, training and opportunities to collaborate with other experts in their field. To date, we have enabled the organization to equip 69 universities in 34 developing countries with 209 metric tons of used but fully functioning laboratory equipment, providing access to the global scientific community and helping to accelerate scientific research.
We are the exclusive sponsor of the Seeding Labs new online platform, TeleScience. Featuring educational videos and training sessions led by our Life Science employees, who share techniques and tips on a wide range of science topics, TeleScience has drawn more than 2,000 users from 115 countries since its launch in 2018.
Pioneering hands-on learning
We engage in a signature partnership with Technorama. Located in Switzerland, this organization is the third largest science center in Europe and a pioneer of hands-on, self-directed learning. In 2018, our scientists in Switzerland developed experiments for public school pupils to perform at special Technorama Days. At these events, more than 650 students collaborated with over 50 employees from our local sites to learn how to detect odors and synthesize a simple fragrance. We are also helping in the development and operation of a fully equipped, state-of-the-art wet lab that has the appropriate setup to handle various liquid chemicals and reagents. It is expected to receive more than 70,000 visitors annually. Technorama will use this lab to provide science-focused professional training for teachers throughout Switzerland.
Clean water for China
At the celebration of our 350th anniversary, in China our company launched a new partnership program with the One Foundation charity fund, which aims to provide clean water to schools. This is an important cause since over 40 million students across 114,000 rural schools in China lack access to safe drinking water. We donate one Chinese renminbi (approximately US$ 0.14) a day on behalf of each of our employees in China, which is used to supply rural schools with clean drinking water. The money donated in 2018 helped to install drinking water purification facilities for around 15,000 students in 33 rural schools as well as providing water testing machines. We also donated 20 sets of portable water quality testing systems to these schools.
Some of our employees also got personally involved in the action. During the school visit program, 18 employees volunteered 16 hours each, teaching topics such as awareness of water and electricity signs and organizing small scientific experiments for the children. In recognition of our efforts, we received the EU Chamber of Commerce CSR Award in 2018.
Music and literature as ambassadors
Our symphony orchestra
What began in 1966 as a company ensemble is now a professional symphony orchestra. In addition to regularly undertaking international concert tours, the Deutsche Philharmonie sponsored by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany is also an integral part of cultural life in Darmstadt (Germany) and the surrounding region. Besides giving performances, we also seek to inspire young people and ignite a passion for classical music through orchestra workshops. In 2018, for instance, 37 young musicians took advantage of the opportunity to play in a professional ensemble for the first time. We furthermore held our traditional cushion concerts for children aged four and up.
In 2018, the Deutsche Philharmonie sponsored by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany gave its 30th charity concert, raising a total of € 50,000. Via the “Echo hilft!” initiative, the proceeds went to help five community projects in the Darmstadt area. To commemorate our 350th anniversary, our symphony also gave performances in Beijing (China), Boston, MA (United States), Darmstadt (Germany), Saint Louis, MO (United States) and Shanghai (China). In China, our musicians led an orchestra workshop for music students from the University of Beijing, and afterwards gave a hugely successful joint concert to an audience of approximately 1,700 people. Beyond these activities, the orchestra also performed three movie soundtrack concerts at our 350th anniversary celebration for our Darmstadt employees and made a guest appearance at the Millstatt Music Weeks in Austria.
people attended the concerts given by our symphony orchestra in 2018.
Literary awards for bridge builders
As with music, literature is also an important ambassador between cultures. We therefore award five literary prizes worldwide: the Johann Heinrich Merck Award for Literary Criticism and Essay Writing of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany (since 1964), the Premio Letterario of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in Italy (since 2003), the Kakehashi Literature Prize of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in Japan (since 2014), the Tagore Award of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in India (since 2012), and the Translation Award of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in Russia (since 2016). These awards particularly recognize authors who build bridges between cultures, as well as between science and literature.
- Worth € 20,000, the 2018 Johann Heinrich Merck Award for Literary Criticism and Essay Writing of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, went to Austrian author and translator Martin Pollack.
- Endowed with € 10,000, our 2018 Premio Letterario was presented to Carl Safina, an American ecologist, writer and professor. Honorable mention went to Italian physicist and science historian Lucio Russo. In Italy, we are also dedicated to promoting the next generation of literary genius. Besides offering creative writing workshops, we host a youth writing competition called La Scienza Narrata, whose winners are chosen together with the winners of the Premio Letterario.
- With prize money of € 10,000, the 2018 Kakehashi Literature Prize went to Austrian writer Clemens J. Setz and his Japanese translator Ayano Inukai.
- Worth € 4,000, our 2018 Translation Award in Russia went to Nina Fedorova, Ekaterina Aralova and Natalia Stillmark, while Tatiana Zborovskaya received the Goethe Prize.
Translation project in Asia
In 2018, we launched our company´s Social Translating project in Korea. Moreover, we sponsored the translation of the German novel “Die Welt im Rücken” (The world at your back) by Thomas Melle into ten Asian languages. As part of this project, we also funded the Goethe-Institut’s innovative approach to translating the book, with ten translators working simultaneously via a digital platform, engaging in a lively discourse with each other and the author.